Friday, April 26, 2013

Defense in the Age of Jihadist Terrorism

by Clifford D. May

Defense policies are not created in a vacuum. They are designed to meet threats. Over time, threats change in ways that are difficult to predict. In the past, America's enemies generally wore uniforms and confronted American soldiers on a foreign field of battle. Today, America's enemies may wear backward-facing baseball caps and attack marathon runners and the men, women and children cheering for them on a sunny April afternoon in New England. 

What happened in Boston last week was terrible and terrifying -- precisely the outcome terrorists seek to achieve. But it could have been worse. It was worse on Sept. 11, 2001, and it will be worse again if we let down our guard, if we stop taking the fight to those sworn to destroy us, if we refuse to understand who they are, what they believe and what they want. 

They have told us, over and over, that they are waging what they call a jihad. The policy of the current administration, and to a great extent the previous administration as well, has been to avoid such terminology. One notable exception: Just before she stepped down, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke with rare candor: "We now face a spreading jihadist threat," she said. "We have to recognize this is a global movement."

Yet so many people -- in government, the media, academia -- refuse to believe this, or at least refuse to acknowledge it. I was on CSPAN's "Washington Journal" program this week debating Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's National Security Project. She declared: "There is no global war ... There is no global jihadist movement."

About the massacre in Boston there is much we still do not know. But the evidence available so far can only lead to the conclusion that two young men from Chechnya committed an act of terrorism on American soil in support of what they believe is a global jihad.

Why could the bombing not have been a protest -- secular, with no Islamist roots -- against Russia's occupation of Chechnya and in favor of Chechen independence? Because then the target would have been Moscow, not Boston. 

Also: Last August, the older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, reportedly linked on his YouTube page a video titled, "The Emergence of Prophesy: The Black Flags from Khorasan ." As my colleagues Tom Joscelyn and Bill Roggio pointed out, the video is based on the jihadist belief that in the Khorasan, an area of Central Asia, jihadists "will inflict the first defeat against their enemies in the Muslim version of Armageddon. The final battle is to take place in the Levant -- Israel, Syria, and Lebanon." 

The video features stirring music, fearless warriors and quotes from Islamic scripture. It highlights an ancient prophesy: One day, Allah will raise an army of "non-Arabs who will be greater riders and have better weapons than the Arabs." Chechens, of course, are not Arabs -- they are from the Caucasus, meaning that they are, literally, Caucasians.

The weapons used in Boston were improvised explosive devices, not very different from those used by self-proclaimed jihadists to kill American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is possible, although not very probable, that the Tsarnaev brothers learned to make these weapons from the Internet with no one instructing them. 

Terrible as the 9/11 and Boston attacks were, imagine a world in which jihadists had nuclear weapons. And soon they may: Jihadists rule Iran and they are likely to achieve "critical capacity" in about a year unless serious actions are taken -- presumably by the U.S. or Israel -- to prevent it. Would the Iranians ever give nuclear devices to such terrorist groups as Hezbollah and Hamas? Of course. Why not?

It is no simple matter to construct defense strategies and structures capable of discouraging and, eventually, defeating those who believe their mission -- mass murder -- is divinely ordained and endorsed. But that is what must be done. We are incurring enormous risks by not getting serious about it. As Hillary Clinton also said: "What we have to do is to recognize we are in for a long-term struggle here ... We've got to have a better strategy." 

Such a strategy would have more components than I have space to outline here. But a few points deserve emphasis:

Spending: By all means, the U.S. military should pursue efficiencies and prioritize. But now is no time to slash the defense budget.

Iran: No threat is more serious than that represented by Iran's theocrats. They believe they are waging a global revolution -- they regard nuclear weapons as essential to the outcome. The world's leading sponsors of terrorism, they also brutally oppress their own citizens -- which should indicate what they will do to you and me given a chance. If economic pressure and diplomacy continue to fail, more draconian measures must follow. 

North Kore: Kim Jong Un is a roaring mouse but he is demonstrating American impotence -- no doubt that is high on his to-do list. His bellicose rhetoric has prompted U.S. President Barack Obama to boost missile defenses on the West Coast, but it will require a much more comprehensive missile defense system to create the "nuclear umbrellathat President Ronald Reagan dreamed of and Clinton -- yes, again, Hillary Clinton -- promised. A complete halt to Western aid and trade with North Korea might force China's leaders to accept responsibility for the enfant terrible. 

Unconventional warfare: Jihadists at home and abroad should be made to continually look over their shoulders -- in that posture, it is more difficult to organize complicated, mass-casualty attacks. Drones have proved an effective tactic -- not strategy -- against terrorists and their masters in such remote and dangerous places as Waziristan and Yemen. The president should continue to use them, under defined rules and with congressional oversight.

Intelligence: To stay a step ahead of our enemies requires a steady flow of actionable intelligence. That, in turn, requires apprehending, not killing, terrorists whenever possible and interrogating them effectively. That has not been happening lately. Had Dzhokhar Tsarnaev been designated an "enemy combatant," as advocated by Senators Kelly Ayotte, Lindsey Graham and others, it would have been possible to interrogate him extensively and perhaps obtain life-saving information about other terrorists and other plots. After that, he could have been transferred to the criminal justice system for trial. The Obama administration decided instead to tell Tsarnaev that he had "the right to remain silent." 

Toward the end of the Khorasan video, the narrator extols the glorious jihad that is to lead to the final triumph of Muslims over infidels. He declares: "No one can stop that jihad!" Actually, I believe America can, with the right defense strategies and structures. Seeing the threat through unclouded eyes would be the first step.

Clifford D. May is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a policy institute focusing on national security.


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

1 comment:

salubrius said...

Clausewitz tells us a lot about Western philosophy of war but we don't know very much about the Quranic concept of war. Pakistani General Malik has written a book on that subject. What is fascinating about it is the Islamic concept of just when it is that Muslims are fighting a DEFENSIVE war. It they believe a country is interfering with the spread of Shariah, under their philosophy of war, they are entitled to attack it, but they call it a DEFENSE of Islam. Before the captured Boston Marathon bombers was Mirandized, he said he was "defending Islam" You might think that he meant the West's defensive wars in the Middle East (after 9/11)motivated his attack.
In the preface Ambassador Brohi implies that Malik’s is an approach to a theme already well developed. "Brohi then defines jihad, “The most glorious word in the Vocabulary of Islam is Jehad, a word, means ‘striving’, ‘struggling’, ‘trying’ to advance the Divine causes or purposes.” He introduces a somewhat cryptic concept when he explains man’s role as energetically combating forces of evil or what may be called, “counter-initiatory” forces which are at war with the harmony and the purpose of life on earth. For the true Muslin the harmony and purpose in life are only possible through man’s ultimate submission to God’s will, that all will come to know, recognize, and profess Mohammed as the Prophet of God. Man must recognize the last days and acknowledge tawhid, the oneness of God. Brohi recounts the classic dualisms of Islamic theology; that the world is a place of struggle between good and evil, between right and wrong, between Haq and Na-Haq (truth and untruth), and between halal and haram (legitimate and forbid- den). According to Brohi, it is the duty of man to opt for goodness and reject evil. Brohi appeals to the “greater jihad,” a post-classical jihad doctrine developed by the mystical Sufi order and other Shia scholars.
When a believer sees that someone is trying to obstruct another believer from traveling the road that leads to God, spirit of Jehad requires that such a man who is imposing obstacles should be prevented from doing so and the obstacles placed by him should also be removed, so that mankind may be freely able to negotiate its own path that leads to Heaven.” To do otherwise, “by not striving to clear or straighten the path we [Muslims] become passive spectators of the counter-initiatory forces imposing a blockade in the way of those who mean to keep their faith with God.
This viewpoint appears to reflect the classic, collective duty within jihad doctrine, to defend the Islamic community from threats—the concept of defensive jihad. Brohi is saying much more than that; however, he is attempting to delineate the duty—the proactive duty—to clear the path for Islam. It is necessary not only to defend the individual believer if he is being hindered in his faith, but also to remove the obstacles of those counter-initiatory forces hindering his Islamic development. This begs the question of what is actually meant by the initiatory forces. The answer is clear to Brohi; the force of initiative is Islam and its Muslim members. “It is the duty of a believer to carry forward the Message of God and to bring it to notice of his fellow-men in handsome ways. But if someone attempts to obstruct him from doing so he is entitled as a matter of defense, to retaliate.

This formulation would appear to turn the concept of defense on its head. To the extent that a Muslim may proclaim Islam and proselytize, or Islam, as a faith, seeks to extend its invitation and reach—initiate its advance—but is unable to do so, then that represents an overt threat justifying—a defensive jihad. According to Brohi, this does not result in the “ordinary wars which mankind has been fighting for the sake of either revenge or for securing . . . more land or more booty . . . [this] striving must be [is] for the sake of God. Wars in the theory of Islam are . . . to advance God."
From a review by JC Myers, Army War College

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